Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The End of Couple-dom

One of the hardest things to adjust to when you have been dumped after 32 years of marriage is no longer being a couple. You are used to one way of life and suddenly it's gone. You feel out of synch with the world because it seems like everyone else is married or involved with someone. You see young people just beginning their married lives and you know that isn't your world anymore.

I got married in 1976 believing that marriage would make me happy and that it would last forever. By then people were questioning whether they had to get married at all, but for the most part they ended up doing it eventually. I was afraid to live on my own. I thought that this relationship would be my emotional rock that would protect me from the world. In truth I was kind of immature.

As a couple, me and my then husband would travel together, have a child, go out to restaurants and share our views on law and politics. We got along for the most part. What was missing was communication. He was unhappy in the marriage, but didn't tell me. When he told me he was moving out it was a total shock to me.

At first I was terrified to be alone. I didn't yet know where our relationship was going or why it was ending. I was totally lost. I got into a support group and went to therapy. I had to now handle the things that my husband used to do-house repairs, bills, cooking, lawn maintenance and car maintenance. The pool turned green and I had to have it overhauled. A storm came along and knocked down several trees and I had to pay someone large sums of money to remove them. I felt like I had been deserted and left to fend on my own, which I was.

Holidays are hard when you are newly single. I had to devise a simpler Thanksgiving meal because there was just me and my daughter and she doesn't eat much. Christmas was very difficult because my then husband ran off to another country with his girlfriend and my daughter did not have her father around on Christmas. I remember picking up take-out on Christmas Eve and seeing all these happy families and friends having a good time. I felt alone and depressed.

Eventually, though, I found out that the sky would not fall if I am alone. I have no one to rescue me if my car breaks down or if my bike has mechanical problems. I have no one to travel with and I spend a lot of time alone. I eat in restaurants alone. It's getting less strange, however and I am finding there are advantages to being alone. If I am on a trip and I feel like lollygagging, I can. I have no one to put me down nor give me exasperated looks when I screw up. I don't have to put up with someone disturbing my sleep by snoring or turning on a light to read. I don't have anyone telling me I am stupid for attempting an ironman(except my daughter). I don't have anyone to buy me presents, but I don't have to schedule my life around another person(except my daughter).

Being alone is both terrifying and exhilerating. I can do things that I couldn't when I was married. The road lies before me, but I don't know where I am going. I hope I am going forward. I don't know if I will ever be part of couple again, but right now that is O.K.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week's Totals

This week's total workout:

8000 yards swimming

44.54 miles bike

3.55 hours running

Total: 10.95 hours

The total is a little low because I was recovering from the race last Sunday. My legs felt dead when I tried to run up until Friday. Hard racing really drains my energy. Tomorrow I am supposed to bike ride for four hours at a mostly hard pace on rolling to hilly terrain. Looking at the weather reports, it is supposed to be about 92 degrees by nine o'clock, which means it will probably be unbearable by 10:30 a.m. Maybe if I get up at four and get going by 5:30 a.m. I will finish the ride before I get heat exhaustion. I pray for clouds.

This type of workout is my coach's attempt to get me to the point where I can finish the 112 miles bike portion in the ironman before the time cut-off. The last time I was training for an ironman, I was up to five hours of riding at four months out, but at a moderate pace on rolling terrain. I guess the theory is that if you ride at a more intense pace for a shorter period of time, it will be the equivalent of riding longer at a slower pace. I hope to hell his plan works.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mountain Man Race Report

If you like oxygen deprivation, this is the race for you. Mountain Man claims to be the fifth oldest triathlon west of the Mississipi. They actually have two guys dressed as mountain men riding horses around the race site. It's located nine miles south of Flagstaff, Arizona at Lake Mary, which looks like a giant mud puddle from the road. The elevation is 7000 feet, which to us desert rats in southern Arizona seems like noticeably less oxygen. If you want to race in Arizona in the summer, you have to go to higher elevations.

I chose to do the Olympic race, (1500m swim, 24.1 mile bike, 6.2+mile run)because I am doing longer course races this year. Last year I did this race in the sprint version. I spent the whole sprint race panting like I had some kind of lung disease. This year wasn't as bad, but the effects of less oxygen were sneakier.

The swim is challenging because it's hard to get enough air when you are swimming. The swim in Lake Mary was a point to point, from one boat ramp to another. Unlike lakes in southern Arizona, the water was a murky brown instead of a murky green. I had a rough time starting out because I couldn't get enough air just swimming. I had to stop and tread water, pant, swim, stop, pant and repeat. Finally, when I got around the first buoy, I settled down and could swim more than resting. Being a slow swimmer, I didn't have that many people around until the next wave would overcome me. I kept thinking how much I hate open water swimming. I was surprised when I reached the dock that I had a swim personal record after all that. Total swim time was 42:27".

The Olympic bike course was much harder than the sprint. The website claims that the Olympic course has three consecutive hills. The first climb is only 200 feet, but it is a steep 200 feet, about a 12 percent grade. At some point I was going five miles per hour. At altitude, I just didn't have much energy to keep the pedals turning over. The hill probably would have been much easier at sea level. My legs were really beginning to hurt. It seemed to take forever to get to the turn around. The scenery was pretty because it followed the lakes and I saw some beautiful hawks playing with each other. Coming down the steep hill I was going 37 miles per hour, so I knew it was a "significant" hill as the website described. I was ready to get off the bike when I got in. Total time was 1:28:45, averaging 16.1 mph. which was good for me.

The run course is a painfest, also harder than the sprint. If is an out and back that climbs an six to eight percent grade hill for a mile and a half. Strangely, I found my heart rate would not go very high running up the hill. I found out later that this is due to the effects of oxygen deprivation. You hit threshold (read out of breath) at a lower heart rate when exercising because you don't have enough oxygen. Looking for distraction from the pain of ascending the hill, I began to wish for a cute butt(guy's) to look at. What I had in front of me wasn't all that attractive. No doubt someone was looking at my butt. Total time to ascend the hill 37 minutes, time to descend 30 minutes. I finally got my heart rate and speed up the last two miles. I had people I knew near the finish line, so I wanted to look like I was actually racing and not plodding. Total run time was 67:46, but the run was longer than 6.2 miles. Maybe 6.7?

This race is painful enough that I might do it again if I am in shape. It is fairly well organized, but there isn't a lot a support out on the course. You have to bring your own nutrition and water out on the bike. My total time was 3:24:09, which is actually a personal record for me on an Olympic course, despite the lack of oxygen. Another difficult race down. On to the next one!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

California Half Ironman

This is me April 4, 2009, with finisher's medal after eight plus hours of racing in the Oceanside, California half ironman(including 35 minutes or so in the medical tent trying to recover from hypothermia). The ocean was about 60 degrees, which apparently my body did not like. Being a slow swimmer, I was in the water for almost an hour.
A half ironman is a 1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike; 13.1 mile run. I signed up for this race in an iron-depression after failing to finish Ironman Arizona in April 2008. It seemed like a good idea at the time and a cool race. The only other half ironman races I had done were here in Arizona.
This race was a lot of firsts; first long road trip by myself, first swim in the ocean that was more than half a mile, first half ironman with real hills(my first two were Soma, which has a much easier bike course).
Other than being cold, the swim wasn't bad until the turn around, where the swells were larger. I was in the first wave of women, so after the turn around the waves behind me caught up to me and the water got really choppy. Previously, in other races I would get panicky at this point, but I decided to let people run into me and not fight it. I had no where to go anyway.
I got out of the water and immediately felt miserable. I had trouble getting my wetsuit off and in general was uncoordinated. A volunteer shanghaied me when I was heading out of the transition area with my bike and got me into the medical tent. I couldn't warm up for a long time and I shivered violently. They finally got a heat on me and I recovered a little. I didn't want to miss the bike cut-off, so I got the hell out of there.
The bike course is scenic and deceptively easy at first. It runs by the ocean for a while and also winds through the Camp Pendleton, which is relatively undeveloped. About mile thirty, you see a hugh hill. If you don't conserve your energy, this hill crushes you. Once you make it over this hill, there are two more smaller hills until you reach the flatter sections into transition. I didn't have a lot of speed on these hills, but at least I didn't walk it like some people I saw. The bike course made Soma's look like a pussy course.
By the time I reached the run course, my legs were toast. I had been hoping to run well, but I just ended up doing a survival slog. The run wasn't difficult except for some hills and a sand section, but it was pretty painful by this point. The locals were enthusiastically cheering everyone, which was nice because I didn't really have anyone else to cheer me on in person.
I would have liked to do better at this race, but sometimes finishing a race is an accomplishment in itself, especially if the race is difficult. When I was running, I heard someone say that they wanted to quit because she wasn't having "fun" anymore. The point isn't necessarily "fun" because at mile sixty in a half iron you are not having "fun". It hurts too much. The "fun" is the feeling of accomplishment that you get from finishing something that you weren't sure that you could do. It's everything.
As a final note, I would have also would have liked to have a halfway decent race photo. The race photographers always seem to catch my worst angles(assuming I have any good ones). It's hard to look good when you have been shivering, sweating and generally exhausting yourself for hours on end. At that point I don't care what I look like, let alone look good. Still you think I could have at least one good photo. Maybe someday. The same day I actually crush the run course in this race.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel Like Ironman Training

It's beginning to feel like ironman training when:

  • It's hard to drag your ass out of bed.
  • You keep running out of workout clothes because they are all dirty. I need a maid.
  • The housework and yardwork doesn't get done. No wait...it doesn't get done anyway. I need a yard boy too. A cute one.
  • When you get sleepy at 8:30 p.m. This does not do wonders for my social life.
  • When you start obsessing about food and seriously consider consuming food you wouldn't normally be caught dead with-like Ensure.
  • When instead of being fresh and energetic for workouts you are counting the minutes until it ends.

It's beginning to feel like ironman training in Arizona when:

  • You can't get up early enough to escape the heat because it's 90 degrees at dawn.
  • The pool water at masters is warm enough for bathing. But you wouldn't want to bath in it because of the little kids that pee in it.
  • You need to stuff ice in your underwear just to get through a run. And it melts in 1 minute.
  • You are on a long bike ride and you hope you finish before you run out of water and the asphalt melts.
  • You are hoping that the light-headed feeling isn't heat exhaustion.

It's beginning to feel like ironman training when hope still leads you on. 135 days until Ironman Arizona

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Dancing Cats

I thought this was funny. From the website "Stuff that Makes me Chuckle!" Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Friday, July 3, 2009

ElevenThings(of many)that I Learned on the Road to Divorce

I have learned many things on the road to divorce. These are just some of them.

1. If you think there might be something wrong with your relationship, you are probably right. It is NOT a phase that your partner is going through.

2. In reference to number one above, it doesn't work to ignore it.

3. If someone dumps you, it helps to have people around to validate you, that think that you are a worthwhile person.

4. You are not the horrible, worthless person that your partner claims you are. They are just telling you that to justify their own behavior.

5. Anti-depressants can help you if you are feeling so depressed that you don't have any energy to function. If you have more energy, you can do what you need to do to get on with your life.

6. Emotions aren't good or bad, they are just information. For example, if the idea of dating repulses you, you are not ready to do so.

7. Staying with an emotionally distant person because you are afraid to be alone is not worth it.

8. If you don't love yourself, it's hard to love another person because if you are dependent on another person for your sense of self-worth, you tend to put up with their crappy behavior to your own detriment.

9. It helps to connect with people that are going through or who have gone through the same thing because you don't feel so alone.

10. Forgiving someone doesn't mean that you condone their behavior, but accepting it for what it is so that you can move on.

11. You also have to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made in the relationship, and learn from them so you don't make them in the next relationship.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I have a new favorite triathlon pro-Tyler Stewart, winner of the 2009 Ironman Couer d'Alene. I read her race report at xtri.com. Normally race reports from pros bore the hell out of me-how wonderful their race went, how wonderful their sponsors are, blah, blah, blah.

Tyler Stewart, however, has overcome a number of obstacles to become an ironman winner. In 2008 in the Hawaii ironman, her bike seat came off and she had to stand while riding on her bike for an hour until she fixed it. Consequently her legs were fried for the run.

She decided to do Ironman Arizona six weeks later, but was sick during that time. During the race, she was seeing spots and blacking out. She spent several hours convulsing in the medical tent with no idea what was wrong with her. It turned out that she was prescibed a dangerous amount of medicine for a routine thyroid condition. She spents month recovering and had to fight fatigue and pain to get back into shape.

In 2009, after a rough swim in Couer d'Alene, she smashed the bike course and ran fast enough to beat second place by nine minutes.

What really impressed me in that after winning the race, she went back to the finish line at 11 p.m. to watch the last racers come in. She stated:" ...I realized, as I do each time I am lucky enough to make it to the final hour of an Ironman, that I am not the real Ironman. It is those people who are out there all day, challenging themselves with every step, with every bit of inspiration that brought them to the start line. They are the winners in my mind and I am so happy to be a part of something, a sport, that is a goal for so many to accomplish in their lifetimes. Anyone that even attempts an Ironman should be proud of themselves."

As a probable 16 1/2-17 hour ironman finisher(I hope) and and Ironman Arizona 2008 DNFer, I was impressed by the humility and generousity of this sentiment. I don't have the talent nor training of a pro. I probably have less talent than most of the age groupers racing an ironman. In the end it is not going to matter. The real win is overcoming the challenges of fatigue and pain and preseversing through the darkness and fear, whomever your are.